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27 March, 2021

How to Develop an App like Clubhouse: Cost, Tech stack, Pitfalls

Clubhouse has already existed for over a year but has got its recognition only a few months ago. This kind of success is tempting, so let us help you reach it. Here is our guide on how to build a Clubhouse-like app and reach your target audience.

Mitya Smusin

Chief Executive Officer

Clubhouse has really made a fuss around the digital world. It’s hard to imagine a person who hasn’t heard about this app, celebrities who joined it, or pranksters who already managed to confuse the audience. Taking into account the skyrocketing popularity, “how to make an app like Clubhouse” has become an urgent question in the software development business. 

Voice-only communication actually has the potential to win the audience’s attention. On the one hand, it adds more emotions to your speech than text, so users can avoid a lot of misunderstandings. On the other, it eliminates the anxiety some people can experience during video calls. No need to worry about your hairstyle anymore!

So, how to hop on a rising trend and build a drop-in audio chat app like Clubhouse? Here’s the answer.

What is Clubhouse

Let’s start with Clubhouse itself. Clubhouse is an iOS voice-based chat app where people communicate and discuss various topics of interest. All discussions are happening live without text messages and the possibility to record the conversation. 

The number of Clubhouse users skyrocketed in a recent couple of months: the analytics company Sensor Tower says that the app acquired 10 million installs at the beginning of February. The virality of this app is clearly seen on this chart:

Clubhouse user growth over time chart

Additionally, according to Statista, the global number of weekly Clubhouse users is around 2 million, and the monthly number of downloads has grown to 9 million.

The app has become worth $100 million and is expected to value at $1 billion, which will make it another Unicorn startup, together with Airbnb and Uber. And that’s even without the Android version or public access!

Why so popular? 

Even though Clubhouse exists already for around a year, it has found popularity not so long ago. In May 2020, Clubhouse had only 1,500 users, compared to more than 20 million nowadays. Most of them are from the US, Germany, and Japan, followed by Turkey and Canada.

So, why did all the buzz appear? What made Clubhouse such a sensation?

  1. First of all, influencers. A lot of first-class experts and celebrities joined Clubhouse really quickly. Such well-known people as Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, and Kevin Hart have already become members of the app. The fact of being in the same online room with a celebrity surely boosted the user growth.
  2. Second, it’s simplicity. Design and usage simplicity attract a lot of users to Clubhouse. Due to its eye-pleasing UI and user-friendly UX, the usage of the Clubhouse app becomes a great experience for its members. Well, “the simpler the better" really seems to be the greatest secret to the success of the digital product.
  3. One more reason for such popularity is, well, the pandemic. Since a lot of people are not allowed to be outside and gather in public places (or just choose not to hang out with others), they are looking for additional ways to communicate. Also, some people are camera shy or don’t want to show the inside of their house to strangers.

Here is when drop-in audio chat apps like Clubhouse come into play. You don’t have to think about your looks, put on a jacket, or find the best lighting for high video quality. At any time or place, you are always ready to have a conversation in a chatroom, public with an audience, or private with just friends. The camera is off and you can work or roam around the house without worrying about the picture.

It proves that Clubhouse is not just another social media app, but a key that opens doors to new business opportunities. If you want to enter this niche market with your app, let’s take a closer look at what Clubhouse offers its users.

Clubhouse features

Right now, there is only one way to become a Clubhouse member - an invite. You need to have a friend who already is a part of Clubhouse, so they can invite a new user. The amount of invites a user can send is limited, but the more they participate in rooms, the more invites they can get.

Setting up a profile is extremely easy: fill out your name, choose a profile photo, write a small bio - voila, the profile is ready. Also, you can add Instagram and Twitter profiles, so people can connect with you outside Clubhouse. 

When everything is set, you get to the Hallway - the app’s feed. All active rooms are listed there, so you can join the conversation you’d like. Also, there is the main menu at the top where you can search for a certain chatroom, invite another person to Clubhouse, or see the schedule with upcoming rooms. 

Rooms in Clubhouse are public or private online spaces for communication, a classroom for discussion. Participants in rooms can have three kinds of user roles: speakers, moderators, and listeners.

Clubhouse user roles

Listener. When you join a club or a room for the first time, you become a listener. This role means you don’t have any responsibilities and there is no need to use the microphone, you just sit and listen. If you want to ask a question or make a comment, you can tap on the small hand at the bottom-right corner and raise your hand.

There is one cool feature that makes Clubhouse special. You can freely check other apps without losing your spot in a room. So while listening to the conversation, you can check your email, follow the speaker on Instagram, or make some notes, and you will not miss a word of the discussion.

Speaker. If you are made a speaker in the room, you are now able to mute and unmute the microphone anytime you want. It would be polite to turn the mic off while others are speaking since it will reduce the background noise. Also, try not to turn the mic right away, so you can avoid the end of the sentence being cut off.

Moderator. You can become a moderator either by starting a new room or getting promoted by another moderator. There are several functions you can perform as a moderator:

  • Set the ability of listeners to raise their hands
  • Promote listeners to speakers and speakers to moderators
  • Accept requests to speak
  • Mute other speakers
  • Demote speakers back to listeners

When the room is large, moderators can bring up to the stage fewer speakers or ask them to limit their speeches to several minutes. Then, they will turn the speaker back into a listener and go onto the next question. Smaller rooms can be organized by moderators as an interview that you can just listen to or as an open stage where everyone can speak out.

Here is a short description of Clubhouse’s features to consider in your future voice-only app:

Clubhouse features

Invites. Inviting mechanics helps existing and potential users feel special. When the app doesn’t have public access, it becomes a kind of a lux product, so demand grows.

Onboarding. As we already said, “the simpler the better.” In Clubhouse, new users registered in the app will be asked to fill in their name, write a small bio, and upload a profile picture, and that’s it. When it’s done, a user can access any public room for conversation.

Feed. That’s the place where users choose what room to join. Clubhouse calls it “Hallway” and it lists all the available rooms for entering.

Clubs. Clubs in Clubhouse are groups that help users build communities. They can join according to their interests or urgent topics they are worried about.

Rooms. In rooms, people can listen to speakers or, if they are one, ask questions or express their opinion.

Schedule. It helps users see the upcoming discussions. It’s possible to choose if the app should notify them or not.

How to build an app like Clubhouse: steps to follow

Now that we are done with making a shortlist of the app’s functions and necessary user roles, we can dive into development! Here is a little guide for you on what to do to create a Clubhouse-like app:

App like Clubhouse development stages

1. Research the market

First of all, look at the market. What it offers to the public, who are the most popular participants, what niches they miss. Your future solution should be unique and solve real problems, so take your time to look at how competitors work and what slips out of their attention. Detailed research will help you define what can make you stand out from the crowd.

2. Identify your target audience

When you know what to offer the market, it’s time to define the target audience. The potential app’s users are the most influential factor for chat app development. The best way to find out if people really need your solution is to ask them directly. One-on-one interviews or short questionnaires will help you collect the most valuable insights on what people want.

If time is limited and there are no resources to conduct an interview, you can create buyer personas, intuitive models of potential clients, and build a customer journey around them.

3. Create a prototype

A prototype is a draft of the future product. It is a backbone, a set of black and white screenshots that shows the app’s main functionality.

The main goal of it is to make mistakes because if you make mistakes now, you won’t make them later. Fixing structural mistakes later can result in rebuilding the app’s entire architecture (which means more wasted time and money), while at the prototyping stage you can solve the issues that have arisen with just a few quick clicks.

4. Build an MVP

One of the most common mistakes is to confuse the minimum viable product (MVP) with a prototype. When a prototype is just a scheme, an MVP is a ready product with basic functionality that promotes its major value. The purpose of MVP is to test the product’s demand and to decide whether to continue its development or not, based on the market’s reaction.

Pitfalls to avoid

Now, let’s talk about what mistakes you and your development team can make while building an audio chat app.

Making a complete copy

It’s impossible to avoid repetition since a lot of functions are the same for many apps. A social media app can hardly exist without push notifications or log in. But complete mirroring of a popular app like Clubhouse will, first of all, scare away users, and second, could bring up legal ramifications.

Not enough research

Research plays an extreme role in software development. If you have done it correctly, your future product will be popular among users. Little research can do more damage than benefit: you could not cover all the needs of the target audience or, as we already mentioned, fall into copying your competitors.

Security issues

Some people are concerned about Clubhouse’s security. Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center researched that a vulnerability in Clubhouse can theoretically allow Chinese authorities to access the app’s data, and a Bloomberg article said that an unidentified user can stream audio from multiple rooms to a third-party website. That is why security should become a top priority in your future app.

No verification process

The verification process in Clubhouse leaves much to be desired. Pranksters, trolls, and just overly curious people appear here and there all the time. 

One of the most popular cases now is one about Brad Pitt. Jacob Tran, a photographer from New York City, registered in the Clubhouse under the name “Brad Pitt” and hosted a room with the title “Climate Impact Reduction.” People were discussing the topic for several hours before someone asked if Brad Pitt in the room is actually Brad Pitt. He was honest and said that he was not the real actor. Later Jacob said that he never meant to be a troll and created this account just for fun. Also, he would like to see what discussions could be brought up by celebrities and how famous people can influence urgent topics.

So while developing your voice chat app, pay attention to the verification process, it will save you from situations like that.

Tech stack for a voice-based app

Here is a list of technologies that will help you implement all desired features:

  • Voice and audio streaming — Agora.io, AWS Live Streaming solutions, WebRTC (PubNub, Twilio services), Jitsi.
  • API hosting — Google Cloud, Firebase, Azure, Cloudflare
  • Storing profile information — AWS(S3), Google Cloud Storage, IBM Cloud Object Storage.
  • Security — Data Theorem.
  • Analytics — Amplitude, Firebase, AppsFlyer, App Annie.

The possible variants of the tech stack may vary depending on the app’s specification, but these solutions are the basis of a voice-based app.

Clubhouse monetization strategy

There are several popular ways to monetize a drop-in audio chat‬ app:

Freemium. It combines the possibility to download the app for free and optionally upgrade it to the premium version with additional features. For a voice app, it can be increasing the number of participants or giving additional personalization tools.

Pay per download. It’s the easiest way to make revenue from the app, but it has some cons. Users have to pay for an install without the possibility of trying it beforehand. Their willingness to spend money without a trial often equals zero.

Subscription. This is the most popular monetization strategy for audio and streaming services. It offers a free trial period so that users can see if they like the app. Also, it’s good to create several plans for users to choose from based on which range of functions they want.

How much does it cost to build an app like Clubhouse?

Approximately, the costs of a voice-based app for social media or podcast applications will start from $10,000-$30,000. The actual cost will depend on various factors like detailed specifications of the project, the number of specialists, and the desired functionality. Also, the complexity will influence the budget: an MVP will require fewer development hours than a full app with all the possible functions. 

Our team is ready to help you analyze your app idea and help you find the best ways to turn it into reality. 

To sum it up

Clubhouse recently made a lot of buzz on the Internet, and it opened a lot of business possibilities for software development. Still, if someone tries to offer the public just another version of Clubhouse, it won’t get the same recognition. To succeed in the voice-only software market, you should create something special, something that will address the audience’s needs.

Related articles:

How to Create a Chat App like WhatsApp: The Extensive Guide

Step-by-Step Guide on Custom Mobile Chat Application Development

How to Create a Chatting Website: Important Features and Design Tips

How to Create an Instant Messaging App: Beginner’s Guide

Tags
Chat
Voice-based app
Communication
Clubhouse

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